Masturbation: When Students Are Stuck (Pt. 2)

Here we are…again. A student looks at you hopelessly and says, “I just can’t stop masturbating. I don’t know what’s wrong with me!” Despite the temptation to throw up our hands and respond in frustration or exasperation, in our first post we offered an introduction in helping this student: draw near both in commonality and in advocacy. If you missed part one, check it out HERE.

Now, what are some possible next steps we can consider to help a student who is habitually enslaved by masturbation?

Make sure their access to porn has been cut off.

Masturbation is often tied to pornography. If you’ve already addressed the issue of pornography with your student, come back around to it. Students, like all of us, are desperate to find solutions for life’s sufferings, so they will many times find ways around their internet blockers and accountability structures and simply not tell you about it. Why? Because, despite a student’s honesty in the past, pornography, by its very nature, perpetuates shameful silence and isolation.

A student’s ongoing issue with masturbation may be clueing you into their ongoing struggle with pornography. Remind them of your love for them, remind them of Jesus, and then ask, What kind of role is pornography playing in your life right now? Is there a possible link there? This might reveal further actions they need to take regarding filtering or accountability software. It might bring up other feelings such as loneliness, longing for control, or a desperate desire for pleasure. As these situations and feelings rise to the surface, they provide new discipleship content for you to explore together.

Most likely, however, there is more going on than meets the proverbial eye, so…

Ask whether enemies are digging underneath another wall.

Imagine that sin and temptation are like an army trying to overrun the castle of our “New Man”. If students are in Christ, they are New Creations (1 Corinthians 5:17) assaulted by old desires (Galatians 5:16). We can easily spend our time fortifying sections of the wall where we know a specific enemy will attack. If a student finds a link between masturbation and pornography, we can diligently help him or her with internet blockers and accountability software. If the student struggles with intense feelings of loneliness, we might suggest making it a habit to call a friend in the midst of temptation.

Focusing on a section of the wall to fortify it is not a terrible plan! But there’s a subtle problem: we can be so concerned with a single section of the wall that we might not realize another enemy digging quietly underneath another part of it.

Every bit of the wall needs to be fortified. While we certainly need to address it, masturbation isn’t the only issue in students’ lives. But for anyone who struggles with sexual sin, this can seem like THE issue to focus on. Students feel shameful and dirty, so it might appear to them that the issue of masturbation needs to be front and center, every day, in the fight against sin.

And while we want to affirm the necessity of addressing and dealing with masturbation, we also don’t want this student to forget that they are protecting the entire New Man castle, not simply a single section of the wall.

In other words, we are all prone to focus on those sins which we feel are the most “horrible” while, at the same time, neglecting or even excusing those sins we feel are minor. Here is the main point of learning to see the entire wall: we must see that sin feeds into sin, all of which works to harden our hearts towards our God.

A student’s unsubmissive relationship with a parent can work to harden her heart over time, making her more susceptible to the temptation to masturbate–and visa versa! What we want to do is to help students gain a proper understanding of their entire lives as ones to be submitted under Jesus.

First, for discouraged students, we want to help them begin to see that masturbation, while damaging to both their relationships with God and others, is not the “be-all-to-end-all” sin.

Second, a hyper-focus on any sin is always a hyper-focus to the exclusion of others. We want to broaden students’ knowledge of and need for repentance in all areas of their lives, rather than obsessing over a single area. We might address this by asking…

What are some other areas of struggle for you?
How are your relationships with your family and friends?
Are there other areas, other beliefs, other fears in your life right now that are difficult for you?
In general, how are you doing with your walk with the Lord?

As students begin to see their need for Jesus in every area of their lives, they will begin to long for, pray to, and rely on Him in deeper and more meaningful ways. Christ paid for every sin with which a Christian might struggle: masturbation is certainly not outside of the cleansing power of His blood. And as students explore more and more of where they fall short in holiness, they will begin to see that masturbation is not an isolated experience from the rest of their lives but is an integrated part of the whole of their Christian life. Ultimately, they will come to understand that, while sin feeds into other sin, Jesus is Faithful Physician over all.

Cooper Pinson
About The Author
Cooper loves student ministry and served as Junior High Director at Briarwood Presbyterian Church (AL) before coming to study at Westminster Theological Seminary. Having volunteered, interned, and been on staff, he has served in various capacities in youth ministry and has a passion to help students live with sexual integrity and to walk with them as they follow Jesus. Cooper, a Georgia native, graduated from Samford University (AL) with a degree in History and a minor in Religion. He and his wife, Katie, have one, beautiful daughter. He loves sitting on the beach, reading fiction, drinking sweet tea, and watching the Food Network.